In the SOFI project, new active optical waveguides and integrated optoelectronic circuits based on a novel silicon-organic hybrid technology are introduced. The technology is based on the low-cost CMOS process technology for fabrication of the optical waveguides - allowing for the convergence of electronics with optics.
It is complemented by an organic layer that brings in new functionalities so far not available in silicon. Recent experiments have shown that such a technology can boost the signal processing in silicon far beyond 100 Gbit/s - which corresponds to a tripling of the state-of-the art bitrates. SOFI focuses on a proof-of concept implementation of ultra-fast ultra-low energy optical phase modulator waveguides such as needed in optical communications.
These devices will ultimately be used to demonstrate an integrated circuit enabling the aggregation of low-bitrates electrical signals into a 100 Gbit/s OFDM data-stream having an energy consumption of only 5 fJ/bit. However, the SOFI technology is even more fundamental. By varying the characteristics of the organic layer one may also envision new sensing applications for environment and medicine. The suggested approach is practical and disruptive. It combines the silicon CMOS technology and its standardized processes with the manifold possibilities offered by novel organic materials. This way, for instance, the processing speed limitations inherent in silicon are overcome, and an order-of-magnitude improvement can be achieved. More importantly, the new technology provides the lowest power consumption so far demonstrated for devices in its class. This is supported by calculations and first initial tests. The low power consumption is attributed to the tiny dimensions of the devices and to the fact, that optical switching is performed in the highly nonlinear cladding organic material rather than in silicon.
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